In 2012, Montreal producer Devon Welsh introduced the world to Majical Cloudz with II, a collection of a few years' worth of his glitch-pop productions featuring contributions by like-minded friends and collaborators like Grimes. It was a sputtering, often messy affair, offering a different take on the dark, layered, and sometimes overwhelming sounds being explored by other Montreal artists like Doldrums, Blue Hawaii, and Grimes. Between II and Impersonator, the Turns Turns Turns EP surfaced: four songs that were incredibly stark by comparison, focusing more on slight instrumental arrangements, implied ghostly rhythms, and Welsh's vocals brought out of the swamp of scattershot samples and effects it had lived in before. The full-length Impersonator follows the blueprint set forth on Turns Turns Turns with ten gorgeously minimal songs with equally naked lyrical content. The opening titular track is about as busy as Impersonator gets with slightly off-kilter loops of vocals and strings intersecting each other before Welsh's deep baritone comes in with lyrics about loneliness and insecurity. With a voice that latches onto Nick Cave's commanding darkness, Elliott Smith's quaking desperation, and even a bit of the wispy romanticism of Coldplay's Chris Martin, Welsh visits themes of alienation, childhood, and his shaky relationship with his own music. Tracks like "This Is Magic" and "I Do Sing for You" make huge statements using as few elements as possible, creating the same wide-open pop compositions as James Blake or Arthur Russell before him, allowing enough space for the listener to fill in and building tension by holding off from all the typical devices we're accustomed to. These songs never break out; the bass and beats we're waiting for never drop; they exist in a state of suspended animation, eternally lingering. Even tracks like "Mister" that include beats keep the understated rhythms in supportive roles of Welsh's melancholic lyrical explorations. Final track "Notebook" rides a soft looping organ, as lyrics like "If it's not too late I'd like to know how much do I have to love to grow/Will I be alone forever?/I don't want to turn to the Bible" question mortality and existence, and ultimately submit to love as a form of faith. This song sums up much of the journey Impersonator takes us on, exploring hard questions and raw feelings but accepting the entire picture as worthy and real. With such a wide-open sound, even the confusing and painful parts sound hauntingly beautiful. ~ Fred Thomas
CMJ - "[With] icy synth beds, crackling percussive touches and chilly piano chords....It's surprising that two people even collaborated on these songs; they feel like the work of a singular mind working in total isolation."